BY E.M. FORTIER
Yesterday, I spoke to a friend who is a teacher in Los Alamos. She teaches some of our young students and, usually, the last day of school before winter break is a hugely celebrated day. It is the end of weeks worth of talking about gifts and traditions and trying to redirect and redirect and redirect attention from the wonders of the season back to school. Usually, it is a mix of melancholy having to be separated from such whimsy and a sigh of relief to have a break.
This year she said it was surreal – it was a feeling unlike any other. A semester ended, many employees will take vacation time, most parents are still scrambling to figure out how to pull it all together . . . But somehow tomorrow still looks like today. We are still trying to figure out what the last nine months did to us, how it changed us, how much we missed, how much we gained, how much we wish there was noise so that we could appreciate the silence.
I am reminded of a scene from my youth. A faithful follower of the school of thought that finals weeks were meant to be filled with late nights fueled by coffee and the companionship of whichever friends also enjoyed the frenzy of cramming; I was more than overjoyed each year when it was all over and my mother would arrive to drive me home for the next three weeks.
There is a memory from one such finals week – almost a sensation where I can still feel the snow falling on me, almost see the lights piercing the darkness, almost hear the sounds of pure Christmas joy, peace & love. I went to college at a Catholic university built in the midst of the beauty of the farmland and lakes of the Midwest; it was one of the more idyllic places of my life. I had left my last final of the semester late in the evening. There was a steady snow falling all around me; only visible in the lampposts’ lights but cold and refreshing on my face. I was so relieved to be done and I began to whistle a happy tune. I stopped whistling as I quickened my pace to catch the shuttle back to my apartment and, out of the silence & darkness, a reply tune was whistled back.
I wish for all of you that sort of holiday season – one where we all realize we are one in heart and soul, where we see the beauty in everyday things, where we touch others’ hearts with our love regardless of our ability to give material goods or to be physically seen, where we can whistle back our own personal tune in response to and in harmony of others’ tunes.